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ODR and Party Trust

ODR and Party Trust

Can an Online Dispute Resolution system build trust with the parties like a human mediator?



Full Transcript

Well, the system has to be programmed, obviously, in a certain way. The goal is to encourage the parties to communicate with each other seriously or without yelling at each other. I’ll give you an example. One thing SquareTrade did was it provided forms for the parties, questions that could be basically checked off yes or no or some other way, but it limited the amount of free text that the parties could use.


There was a text box, but you were allotted a certain number of characters. The more you typed, the fewer characters you were told you had left, so you had to be very concise about what you were doing. Gradually, by exchanging information in that way, parties would see finally, the thing broke in the mail or the thing was delayed, it was Christmas-time, U.S. Postal Service was not at its best. Once that happened, these disputes were fairly easy to resolve. No one wants to feel that they’ve been defrauded, and that’s the initial feeling in almost all of those cases. So this can increase trust between buyers and sellers because they realise that there’s no malice intended.


I’ll just add one more thing. The parties we dealt with had already tried to resolve the disputes via email. Email’s usually an ineffective way of resolving conflicts online because there is no control. You can rant all you want. There are no limits. It’s not going to contribute to a conversation or to build trust.


That was something else we learned. Even though we used email, that was the job of the mediator, to foster a conversation that the parties were calm, serious.

About the mediator

Ethan Ktash Profile Pic

Professor Ethan Katsh is Director of the National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution and Professor Emeritus of Legal Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. During the current year, he is a Research Affiliate at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society Professor Katsh is widely recognized as the founder of the field of online dispute resolution (ODR). Along with Janet Rifkin, he conducted the eBay Pi... View Mediator